The lovely Pip asked me if I would like to write a post for her after we worked together to help one of her clients get better website traffic using ‘on page SEO’ (I’ll come to exactly what that is in a minute). SEO is something that is often talked about in language that would make any sane person run for the hills, but it doesn’t need to be like this. I’m going to explain how to start talking to Google on your website so that you and Google can quickly become besties…
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the term given to making your website as attractive to Google as possible in the hope that it will ‘rank’ when people search for businesses like yours. Getting found on Google (and to a lesser extent on the other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo) is the holy grail of SEO. Some businesses spend thousands on agencies to help with SEO, but if you’re a small business with no SEO budget how can you have an impact? Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do. It’s just a case of learning to speak the language.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
A very wise lady once said ‘Let’s start at the very beginning’. To do that we need to look at what Google is trying to achieve: it wants customers. Google wants us to use its search engine to find results whenever we need to find something. To get that loyalty, it needs to be giving us good matches for whatever we are looking for every time we search.
How Google measures things
If Google’s main mission is to give people good information when they search for whatever it is they are looking for, then it needs to measure this somehow. It can’t ask users whether they found what they wanted so it uses a few key measures to assess this.
The first is Bounce Rate. If you land on the page it suggests and then immediately hit the back button, Google will assume that you didn’t find what you were looking for. If this happens it makes a mental note* that perhaps your site doesn’t answer that search very well.
The second measure is how long you then stay on the site or Visit Duration. If you stay on the site for a while it will assume that you have found useful information and will make a mental note* that your website is a good match for the search that the customer put in.
What does that mean for a small business owner?
It means that we need to make it super easy for Google to understand what our website and the individual pages within it are about so it shows your page to people who will not ‘bounce’ and who will stay for a good while. Once your website is ‘live’ it will be indexed by Google and the other search engines. This is a process in which a robot comes along and looks at the code that makes up each of your web pages and tries to decide what it is about. Sometimes it gets it right and sometimes it doesn’t, robots are not (yet) as clever as humans. If it shows your page to the wrong people you’ll get a high bounce rate and low visit duration. If it shows it to the right people then you get the opposite; that’s what you are aiming for.
How to fix your on page SEO
The good news is that we can affect the odds of Google showing your pages to the right people by making some simple changes to the way that we create our sites.
Let’s go back to Google’s view of the world. If the Googlebot comes across your page and reads the code, how does it decide what the content is about? It will look at some key things on your page (this is called on page SEO, imaginative eh?)
- Page Title
- The page URL
- Any headings
- Image names
- The meta description
If these are all different then Google won’t be able to form a clear opinion on what your page is about so it may take the page title and just move on. We don’t want that so we need to mix a bit of Google speak into our page or post.
Choose a good title’
Let’s take this post as an example. I am writing about “on page SEO”. I might try and think up a clever title. Like ‘Why your words matter on your website’. Or ‘The secret to world domination’. Google will not understand this. Writing a title that is interesting AND which incorporates your key words will keep everyone happy. Instead I have used a title that should appeal to both a reader and Google: “How to speak so Google will listen… why on page SEO matters.”
[Note on keywords. This is a whole other blog post. It is important to be using key words that are things that people are searching for. Imagine you are your ideal client and think what you might type into Google when you are looking for help on the problem you solve. That short phrase should become your keywords.]
Add the keywords throughout your text
itle that Google will understand and it includes my key words (on page SEO). I now need to make sure that I’m actually writing about on page SEO throughout the article. This reinforces to Google that I am really talking about it, not leading you up the garden path. You get an extra point if you can get your keyword into your first paragraph.
Add some headings
I can also add some nice headings which contain the keyword (not every heading, we don’t want it to read badly). Google also likes headings and sub headings because they break up the text and help the scan readers to zip through content.
Make sure your images match
Finally adding a few images which are titled to match the keywords (i.e. on page SEO) and have alt text that supports the keywords will make Google super sure that you are serious about this whole thing! I have added a few images here, and both have on page SEO incorporated into their names and alt text.
Meta Descriptions need love too!
Last but not least, make sure your page URL (which can be different from your page Title) contains the keywords and write a catchy meta description (this is like a trailer for the page) and pop it in the box of that name in your website builder. If you don’t have a meta description box, speak to your website developer and find out where it lives.
The meta description shows up in the search results and is often the decider for whether someone clicks on the link when Google returns it. Don’t waste this valuable sales space by having the first sentence of the page, write a short description of the whole page including, yes you guessed it, the keywords!
And that’s it. You’ve hugely improved your on page SEO!
Obviously, there is a lot more to SEO than these small changes but if you do these things then you’ll be moving in the right direction. It takes just a few minutes per page to incorporate these changes and it could completely change your relationship with Google so why not give it a go? You don’t need to do it on every page, just some key pages that are really targeted to help with your clients’ problems.
Let me know how you get on or if you have any questions!
* It’s possible that the Googlebots make a database entry but I prefer to think of them as semi-human with the ability to make mental notes.
If you’re in the market for a new website and have a tight budget then you might be interested in my Build Your Perfect Website Course. It’s a 6 week course where I teach you (and hold your hand) to build your own beautiful WordPress site. You’ll be able to make changes whenever you want and it’s really fun! Honest. You can find out more here.